BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, Deputy Political Editor
LAGOS — THE ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, may have tough nut to crack in getting members of the House of Representatives to go along with its contentious zoning formula.
The House Project Initiative, an amalgam of 280 returning and fresh members-elect to the House of Representatives, which says it is desirous of allowing competence, credibility and expenses, rather than zoning be the guiding principles in choosing the new leadership of the House, yesterday reiterated its resolve not to be driven off its noble cause by those it described as scare-mongers who resort to name-calling, distortions of facts, threats and outright falsehood.
The PDP has zoned the speakership to the South-West geo-political, which performed poorly in the last general elections in terms of returning PDP legislators and governors. The South-East, which performed better had clamoured for the House speakership or Senate Presidency but was allotted Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). President Goodluck Jonathan at a meeting of party leaders stressed the need for the party faithful to uphold the zoning formula.
But the group said: “Although we decided at the beginning not to respond to the distraction tactics of hecklers who are determined to enthrone mediocrity in the House, we wish to clear some grey areas occasioned by some of these false reports”, the group said.
In a statement endorsed by Hon. Emmanuel Jime, one of the leading lights of the group, the members decried the deliberate use of misleading headlines to deceive the public regarding the mood in the House of Representatives. “What we have currently is a mass movement which draws support from across geo-political, ethnic and party lines,” Jime said.
“The truth”, he said is that very many well meaning Nigerians support the move by the House of Representatives to freely choose its leadership, not just to ensure stability in the system, but also to deepen democracy through a practical application of the principles of separation of powers.
On fears being expressed in some quarters to the effect that new members-elect may be sidelined in the running of the House, Hon. Jime stated that the House of Representative had always believed in harnessing the manifold potentials of all its members, especially as the Nigerian Constitution clearly spells out in section 50(1) that “there shall be a speaker and deputy of the House of Representatives who shall be elected by the members from amongst themselves.”
To buttress this point, Jime named several first _ term legislators of the current assembly who were named as committee heads, in spite of the presence of older and more experienced colleagues and stated that the situation would not be any different this time around.
His words: “In the life of the outgoing 6th Assembly, we have first timers who were saddled with managing the affairs of several House Committees; they include: Hons. Ndudi Elumelu (Power), Aminu Shagati (steel Development), Eziuche Ubani (Climate Change), Dino Melaye (Information), Nnenna Ukeje (Donor Agencies) Seriake Dickson (Justice), Chukwuka Onyema (Works), amongst others.”
The House Project Initiative contended that the Transformation Agenda of the current administration must begin and be in sync with the desire of the incoming House of Representatives to elect its leadership devoid of external influences.
It urged all the 280 members of the 7th Assembly, who have so far identified with the project to remain steadfast and not be intimidated by threats of suspension, expulsion and other high – handed tactics of coercion.